Manchester United 3 Portsmouth 0: United dream of Best and Benfica as Portsmouth sink without trace

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The Independent Online

George Best's friend Michael Parkinson remarked on his radio programme yesterday that "the grief industry has become part of showbusiness," and that Best would have been "amused" at the magnitude of his send-off.

Time to smile and move on, then, though it is difficult to call a halt to the celebrations of Best's football life when Manchester United are due to play a crucial Champions' League match against Benfica in Lisbon, the scene of one of the Irishman's magical performances.

Portsmouth's supporters, who heartily participated in a minute's applause for Best at Old Trafford on Saturday, would like to move on. Not for them, though, a vision of the Stadium of Light but one of scrabbling in the dark.

A former England international, noting that the heads of a number of Portsmouth players were dropping towards the end the game, said: "I don't think they need Harry Redknapp. I think they need Harry Houdini."

Portsmouth are not guaranteed to win at Old Trafford, whatever the occasion, but they kept the margin of defeat respectable until the concluding 10 minutes after allowing Paul Scholes to score his first goal of the season after 20 minutes. The suicidal way the defence left room for Scholes to head the ball in from a Ryan Giggs corner was, as a colleague wryly said, "like committing Harry Redknapp."

Joe Jordan, Portsmouth's caretaker manager, was astonished to see that his defence ignored the danger. "Scholes has had the chances of late," Jordan said, "he's just not been putting the ball into the net. He's still getting in the same positions, outside the box and inside the box, he's still getting on to things and it's just not going in for him. Today it was an easy one."

Jamie Ashdown, in Portsmouth's goal, did his best to frustrate United's attempts to increase their lead, and the lively Lomana LuaLua made every effort to produce an equaliser. The stage was set, however, for United to remind everybody that theirs is the theatre of dreams, but the lull between the first act and the second and third acts, the late goals by Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy, did not help.

Jordan fancies his former club to succeed in Lisbon. "I've watched a lot of their games, and they've definitely upped a gear," he said. "It's going to be a hell of a night, because you're looking at results elsewhere possibly affecting it. But United are capable of going there and getting a result." Asked if he had a personal memory of Best, Jordan smiled and said: "No, I couldn't print that one."

United's supporters sang in praise of "El Beatle" to the tune of "Yellow Submarine": "No 1, Georgie Best; No 2, Georgie Best; No 3, Georgie Best; No 4, Georgie Best; No 5, Georgie Best; No 6, Georgie Best; No 7, Georgie Best; No 8, Georgie Best; No 9, Georgie Best; No 10, Georgie Best; No 11, Georgie Best; No 12, Georgie Best: We all live in a Georgie Best world, a Georgie Best world, a Georgie Best world".

Portsmouth's depth-charged submarine was as blue as can be.

Goals: Scholes 20 (1-0), Rooney 80 (2-0), Van Nistelrooy 84 (3-0).

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea (Richardson, 46); Park (Saha, 78), Smith, Scholes, Giggs (Ronaldo, 65); Rooney, Van Nistelrooy. Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Fletcher.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Ashdown; Griffin, Stefanovic, O'Brien, Priske; Viafara, Diao, 0'Neill, Taylor (Robert, 72); LuaLua, Silva (Toderov, 59). Substitutes not used: Westerveld (gk), Primus, Vukic.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Portsmouth Griffin.

Man of the match: Scholes.

Attendance: 67,684.

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